Saturday, January 31, 2015

Believe in Magic

I finally got the best Christmas present ever this weekend!  My awesome best friend bought tickets for us to go to Cavalia's show Odysseo and I loved every minute of it!

I didn't take pictures of the actual show both because they didn't want it and because I really didn't want to interrupt my own experience by trying to get a good picture! And there was constantly something to watch and enjoy.

My personal highlights...
  • The crazy amount of vaulting! I've always admired the sport of vaulting but these horses and riders took it to another level.
  • Jumping! They set up a bunch of different jumping exercises, and again took it to another level. I recognized most of the exercises and loved seeing them executed so well, at and impressive speeds!
  • Acrobatics... Another thing I always find pretty amazing - and this was some of the best work I've seen. 
  • The live music was great!  I always love good music and this was beautiful - and completely live.  Pretty cool ;)

Have you ever been to see Cavalia, or something similar?  What did you think? :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Horse Racing - Take Two

I have several horsey people in my circle of friends, and one of them happens to absolutely love horse racing. And yet... *gasp*... she had never been to a track and never seen a day of live horse racing.

So.... last Monday, I took R from Beyond the Stretch to a day of live racing at Oaklawn Park!  :)

All photo credit goes to R.
I've been to Zia Park for a regular day of racing, but Oaklawn Park was just a tad fancier and more elaborate. ;)  I was so glad that the weather was good... we were able to spend the entire day enjoying ourselves and standing on the rail.

The worst best part of the day was the three and a half hour drive one way to get to the track. I actually drove 7 hours in one day. No desire to do that again any time soon.  ;)

Last Monday was January 19th, which also happened to be a stakes day - featuring the Smarty Jones, the first 3yo prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Pretty exciting to see!

Winner of the Smarty Jones - Far Right.
I only lost a little bit of money throughout the day, and my pick for the last race was a winner who also broke her maiden in the race.  That was fun :)

My horse in the last race - nice looking filly!

It was a fun day out! I enjoy watching horse racing live and it's always good to spend time with friends.  :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learning to Ride

Fun development happened last weekend! I decided to get in touch with a friend of mine (who we'll call E) who has taught riding lessons in the past and also is one of the very few people in my area who actually knows something about English riding and specifically dressage.

You can't imagine how excited I was when she got back to me and said she could come and watch me ride.  Eeeek!  I was pretty excited to say the least.

And nervous. I have actually never ridden around someone who is a lot better than me. Never had a lesson in my life. I think I'm pretty good, and I do have a lot of knowledge in my head, but how do I measure up to someone else?

I actually was sick the morning of the day we arranged and almost cancelled because of it, but I was so glad later that I didn't. I squeezed a nap in and felt quite a bit better - good enough to ride at least with mediocre skill!  Lol...

Pretty much the whole time was spent on a circle with the middle portion on the lunge (which I definitely needed).
We weren't working on Lady, but on me, which was perfect because Lady is an angel and I'm the mess... right?

I wish it were this green again...
Biggest thing that I remember was that I need to keep my shoulders back and my elbows underneath my shoulders.  I have a bad tendency to slouch/tense my shoulders, so I'll have to work harder on that.

Main things I need to work on...

  • Shoulders/elbows: create that line through shoulders/hips/heels.
  • Push her forward with my seat/hips. I thought I was doing this, but it wasn't enough.
  • Drop my heels in two point, and then drop them further.
  • Pinkie finger goes under the rein, thumb stays on top. Don't let it slip.
  • And I need to drop my stirrups every ride. Yeah...
  • Ride the halt - its a transition.

I enjoyed every minute of the ride and I loved getting feedback about my riding. If the weather holds, we'll be getting together again on Sunday, and I'm really really excited. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Travel Planning Monday: Anxious Horse Mom

I'm definitely an anxious horse mom, and leaving my babies for 6 weeks is very very hard to accept.

Because I do have some adorable fur-babies.  :)

Anyways... since I still live on my parent's property and am super lucky to have someone always around to do feeding and watering and basic checking-on-the-animals, I don't really have a lot to worry about. Even if the family is a bit begrudging about doing outdoor chores for me. Oh well.

So, I've been trying to get everything prepared for my extended absence... and its still stressing me out.

With two and a half weeks left until we fly out, I still need to...

  • Stock up on feed... How in the world do I add up how much I'll need?
  • Prepare supplements.... Again, make sure I have enough and that its set out clearly labeled.
  • Set up clear written instructions for everything that needs to be done.
  • Get contact information for vet and hoof trimmer.
  • Have Lady's feet trimmed.
  • Make sure arrangements have been made for hay to always be available for all three horses.
  • Check fences.  (Sigh)
My second problem is that I really don't like leaving Lady for six weeks without having any exercise.  It probably isn't as big of a deal as I make it, but she does stiffen up if I leave her sitting in the pasture for too long.

So.... I got one of my horsey friends to agree to come out and ride 2-3x per week. Of course.... that makes me nervous too because in the 7 years I've owned Lady, I can still count on one hand the people I've allowed to actually ride her. I just don't share very easily.... but its going to be okay. We'll discuss how Lady likes to be handled and groomed and saddled and ridden. 

How do you handle leaving your horses for any period of time?  What kind of preparations do you make?  :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

He's Finally Here!

Remember when I wrote up a post about a certain baby horse that I would be taking in?
Well... he arrived here on Sunday and I'm pretty much loving having three horses again. So much fun.  :)

He's young, about 2 and a half, not yet gelded, and not at a weight where I would like him to be, but we can fix that.  :)
Right now he's in the paddock by himself so that he can eat all the hay he wants and because I'm not quite ready to put him out with my girls.

I let Lady meet him over a fence today and it went alright.  They had had two days of seeing each other across the property already to let him settle in.
I brought Lady over and did a little basic groundwork with her around his paddock to make sure she was listening to me. She was alert, but she was a good girl.  I did turn her loose to let her go meet him, mainly because she gets very expressive with her front legs when she meets a new horse (aka strikes and half rears) and I don't wish to be hurt.

I let them have a few minutes to figure things out over the fence and I'm kind of thinking it will all be okay. Tomorrow or Thursday I'm going to put them both out in the arena and see how things go...

Such an adorable baby.  And I love his ears!
He responds to pressure with a lot of correct responses, but he gets worried and has to move his feet in order to deal with that anxiety. He leads okay, but wants to follow directly behind you, so we'll have to deal with that.  My plan is to get a lunge whip out on Thursday and actually have a proper lesson on leading. He'll be a fast learner - I can feel it  :)

And who couldn't love those soft eyes...
Here's to Comanche Moon, everyone. I love baby horses.  :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Travel Planning Monday III: Winter Packing

Part I - Making Decisions
Part II - Where to Go and Transportation

The dates for our trip to Europe are February 11 - March 25. For the most part that classifies as winter and winter in Europe usually means cold and wet.
Happy day.

We are going at this time for several reasons.
1)  It isn't tourist season. More culture!
2)  Everything is cheaper. Always nice.
3)  Good timing between school semesters for me!

In some ways this makes packing easier (aka less clothing gets sweaty from hot days). But we also do need to keep warm and dry. Obviously, right?

The question comes to: how many layers and jackets we need to pack. Trick question!

So far I've picked up several sweaters and leggings to use for layering but I still need to find some light jackets and decide on a coat.
But my problem is that I can't seem to settle on/find something that will be warm and look fashionable AND not be too bulky to pack. Ackkk!

Riding Sport Fleece Jacket from Dover
I like fleece jackets and this one (or something like it looks nice) but I can't seem to find something that really appeals to me. I also like vests, which, paired with certain things, can be very fashionable.

I do own a pretty nice wool coat that I'm considering taking along as a "heavy weight blanket" option if I need it, but it is heavy... which makes me hesitate.

Sigh!  What would you pack?

And believe me, I already have clothing marked for riding purposes while I'm gone!  Mwahahaha....

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Something Old, Something New

If you've been reading for any length of time, you know that my lovely girl is not a youngster. She was 9 when I bought her in 2007 (you can do the math) and she had had quite the full career by that time already.

I made the switch to riding English early in 2014 and started really studying riding in earnest. We've had lots of bumps and bobbles along the way but we're coming along quite nicely, if I do say so myself.  :)

But every once in a while I wonder about what this journey would have been like with a younger horse.

With Lady, we had years together and she had even more years of experience before that, so a lot of the dressage and jumping training we've done in the past year has been more re-learning for both of us than anything else. Its new things, yes, but its also breaking old habits and learning new ones in their place.

With a younger, more green horse there is a lot of teaching good habits for them to have for the rest of their lives. You have to teach them how to use their bodies correctly and carry themselves and not knock jumps over.

With a green horse, you have to teach them about proper bend and straightness as a habit. With Lady, I'm having to teach correct bend/straightness over her many years of going crooked and compensating.  Big difference.

I'm more or less thinking out loud here.... so I'll pass it on to you?  Have you trained a green horse or an older horse or both?  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 Pickles

Last Sunday (the 4th) I got Lady out, saddled up and rode around for 20 minutes or so.  She was definitely in a mare-ish mood and very strong, so we had to work through that until she softened a bit. It was a bit of a frustrating ride but we ended on a fairly good note...

The next Tuesday (the 6th) we did groundwork first, because of how pickle-ish she had been on our last ride. (Pickle is now my new favorite expression for Lady.....).  She behaved decently enough so I went ahead and rode for almost 30 minutes. We actually had a mini breakthrough about bending and straightness, which I plan to write about sometime. She was still being a naughty pickle and avoiding work like the plague - aka stopping, pulling, running out at ground poles (really?) and going hollow instead of forward. Silly horse.

Yesterday I thought about riding, but decided to stick with groundwork instead. We played around in the pasture with catching and approaching and being a good horsie. She was having way too much fun being a crazy Arab and with the insane amount of mud out there, it made it hard to do much. We had some fun stumbling around though and she softened after a while. She got treats and I got hugs.  :)

Fuzzy pony wants more peppermints.....

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Love Winter

Seriously, I do.

I love sitting by the fire, since I'm super lucky and we heat our house mostly with a wood stove.
I love hot chocolate
I love fuzzy ponies.
I love snow.
I love snuggling in warm blankets and being cozy
I love fashionable sweaters and coats. And boots!
I even love the nippy air and the pretty icicles.

But what I don't like is the mud....
...the biting wind.
...the miserable half soggy, half frozen ground.
...the numb fingers.

One of my goals for January was to work on some liberty stuff with Lady. Well... due to the rain and the mud, I don't have a proper place to work with her on that. Yeah, it just hasn't happened like I wanted it to.
Also because of the rain (freezing rain at times, I might add) I haven't ridden as much. I prefer not to ride in the cold when its muddy because Lady tends to get a bit frisky when I get her out and we usually end up pulling a muscle or slipping around or something like that.
If the ground could just dry up, I would be somewhat happier....

Totally boring, complaining post - but at least now you know my opinions on winter.

Seriously.... I don't know how all of you that live north of Texas manage it.

Brrrrr..... <3

Monday, January 12, 2015

Travel Planning Monday II - Where to Go and Transportation

Since I was 2 years old (which hardly counts) I have never been on a plane. Not a little one, not a big one, not anything. Is it very strange then that I'm more than a nervous about flying all the way to Europe? I hope not.

We bought airline tickets back in early December, once we had nailed down the correct dates. We have 2 stops on the flight into Germany, and 1 stop on the flight back to Texas. Part of me is pretty happy about that because I get to get off the terrifying planes for a few hours in between and don't have to be cooped up for a straight flight. The other part of me is a little anxious about dealing with airports, losing baggage, missing a flight, and that kind of thing.  What do you prefer? My friend is a little more excited about flying than I am!  ;)

Palace in Karlsruhe, where we're headed.
Our second question regarding transportation was about getting around once we're actually in Europe. There are the options of renting a car, getting a taxi, using the bus or taking the train! Yipes. 

For the most part when we're in a town or city, I think we'll be doing a lot of walking. We really want to see the country and the culture instead of flying by all the little things. For one week of the trip, we'll be travelling with my aunt and uncle and the plan is to rent a car since we'll be stopping at all sorts of places along the way.  
For the remainder of the time, when we're travelling more on our own, we've purchased a Eurail 4-country train pass that is valid for 10 travel days within 2 months. I had to figure out how exactly a travel day worked and it is really cool... Basically, one travel day lasts from midnight to midnight on whatever day. Once we get on a train on a certain day we can ride as many trains as we want until midnight of that day, and that counts for only one of our travel days. Even better is if we need to make a longer trip - we can take a night train that leaves after 7pm and arrives after 4am. That train ride doesn't take 2 travel days, it only counts into the day we arrive. I'm definitely using that to our advantage!

The Black Forest - in south Germany
Also on our decision-making list was the question of where can we all go?  Obviously, we want to go everywhere, and depressingly, we can't go everywhere. So we had to decide what was important and what we could afford and what was not too far away. Harder than it sounds.  :(
We finally settled on "only" visiting 4 countries.
Germany (obviously). We plan to take day trips out and about so that we can see the countryside and small towns and the like. Maybe even snow! We also have some various stops on our way to Austria.
France, because its right across the border from my aunt and uncle's town. We are going to be in Paris for up to 4 days and the three main things to see are the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame. You can't imagine how strangely excited I am to see the organ in the Notre Dame!
Austria, because I cannot refuse the world of music!  We'll be spending several days in Vienna and visiting the Spanish Riding School, and some historical musical places (Mozart lived there....).
And.... Italy, where we'll be spending at least a week. Venice for an afternoon, Rome for 2-3 days, Florence for a day, and a smaller town for about 2-3 days as well.  
I'm still working out a more exact itinerary, but that's what we have so far, and its quite exciting! 

What would be the place you would most want to go to in Europe, and why?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How to Enjoy a New (to Me) Saddle

Step One:  Admire it from afar (aka across the internet)

Step Two:  Get a little closer by putting it on your horse.

Step Three:  Look it in the face and smile :)

Step Four:  Check it out from all angles.

Step Five:  Does the color match?

Step Six:  Add accessories.

Step Seven:  Pose and look fancy!

Step Eight:  Look ahead into the exciting future!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Travel Planning Basics: Making Decisions

I have mentioned my trip to Europe several times now, but I've never elaborated on it.  While planning this year's blog posts I decided it would be a good idea to put up a series of posts about travelling, since its not something I normally do.
For the longest time (more than a few years) my best friend and I have been wanting to go to Europe. We wanted to go in the fall and then in the spring and it kept getting bumped further ahead.

I can't remember all the details but we finally decided on this spring. Dates got tossed around and we finally decided on this spring. Dates got tossed around and financial questions and we eventually settled to go for 6 weeks in February/March of this year.

I'm not sure that its necessary to explain why we want to go to Europe... with all the history and countryside and artwork. We won't get to see nearly everything we want to see, but we have quite the list!

We will be making our base out of south Germany, where my aunt and uncle live. From there we will be spending a few days in Paris, France, close to a week in the Vienna area, and almost a week and a half in Italy. In between those times we'll be exploring the area around my aunt's town.

We are mostly looking at things related to art, music, and horses. We'll be seeing some of the normal touristy spots, but since its not tourist season we are hoping for more of the cultural experience.

Have you visited Europe, or are you reading from Europe?!  How did you go about planning? What was/is your favorite highlight?

Friday, January 2, 2015

December Analysis/January Goals - Looking Forward!

This is the last of these posts for a while - I promise.

December Personal Goals
  • Stay sane through finals week and the rest of the Christmas show.
  • Get accepted into university.  Didn't finish my paperwork.
  • Complete 2014 goals as well as possible. 
  • Have an awesome Christmas holiday.
  • Smile and relax.  Mostly... I did pretty good.

December Equestrian Goals
  • Complete 2014 goals as well as possible.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes with the horses every day. I forgot about this one.
  • During Christmas break, take a whole day to go trail riding.
  • Get Tempest through basic groundwork again.  Not quite.
  • Really work my lower leg and get it more stable.  Lots better!

January Equestrian Goals
  • Get into the habit of keeping records of all my rides.
  • Work with Lady at liberty on good balanced circles and transitions.
  • Get Lady more sensitive to leg aids.
  • Keep up the canter work and build strength in both of us.
January Personal/Blog Goals
  • Complete all the paperwork and applications for TTU.
  • Write 10 pages of notes about plot, twists, characters, setting and other ideas for my second novel.
  • Get all the arrangements made for leaving for Europe.
  • Get an editorial calendar set up for the rest of the year for both blogs.
Hopefully this is a great start to a great year! :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Resolutions - Happy New Year!

  1. Go to Europe for six weeks in February/March and have a safe, enjoyable trip. Come back with lots of great memories and experiences and ride at least one horse during that time.
  2. Write my second novel by finishing all the character development, plot structure and background work before actually writing. Possibly use Nanowrimo to complete the writing part. Have a completed first draft before Christmas 2015.
  3. Go back to school in Fall 2015, at TTU if all works out, and move out on my own. Move Lady to a barn nearby, find a decent job,a nd get settled into a new life.
  4. Ride Lady 120 times. Keep track of this by recording every ride, its length, type of work, and good/bad thoughts. Add a page to this blog to keep this record.
  5. Take the opportunity to ride horses of varied disciplines, ages, and levels with the goal of riding 12 different horses for at least 30 minutes each throughout the course of 2015.
  6. Take at least 10 riding lessons, preferably spread out throughout the year. Try to have at least several that are discipline-specific.
  7. Improve my lifestyle to be healthier by having a full food allergy/intolerance test done, exercising 4x per week, taking daily supplements again, and creating better sleep habits.
  8. Become more balanced, organized, and stress-free by spending more time outdoors, keeping a daily journal, and utilizing Tech-Free Sundays. Say no more often.
  9. Keep up with and improve on both my blogs. For this blog: post 5x weekly, host at least 3 guest interviews, and clean up categories and tags. For Katharine Marie: post 3x monthly, become more active on Facebook and Twitter, and start monetizing.
  10. Improve my riding ability so that I can ask for transitions properly, ride the canter and gallop, jump up to 2' with decent EQ, and see/feel/change diagonals well.
  11. Continue to work with Lady, especially in fitness so that she can gallop for 3 minutes/canter for 7 minutes. Work also in balance so that she can work in a 50/50 frame (not on the forehand) and not throw her shoulders in.
  12. Work Lady through her trailer issues and prepare/go to an event (trail ride, parade, clinic, show) in the summer/fall.
I know that I've put down quite a bit of things to work on in one year and some of them are rather large things. I have already bought plane tickets/train passes for the trip to Europe, now I just have to enjoy myself.  The other big one is making the move across Texas to go to university - and it is one of the most important ones to me. The others are all in line with continuing the progress Lady and I, and me personally, have been making.

Happy New Year!  All the best to you in 2015!!